Health and health care news

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is set to receive $2 million in federal funding to fight the heroin and opioid abuse crisis.

Last year 418 Mainers died from drug overdose, an 11 percent increase compared to 2016. The nation saw over 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is awarding $485 million to states to combat drug addiction under a 2016 federal law. Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King championed the law, which released $500 million in the first round of funding last year.

How The Boston Marathon Bombing Helped Bring Innovation To Amputation

Apr 16, 2018
Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Army veteran Brandon Korona pulls up his pant leg, rearranges a protective sleeve, and twists off the plastic socket on top of his prosthetic left leg. It comes off with a suction cup-like pop.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

Hundreds of Maine children with developmental disabilities are on a wait list to receive support services in their home. 

SANFORD, Maine — Maine school officials say six students in Sanford have been diagnosed with whooping cough.

WMTW-TV reports there were four reported cases at Margaret Chase Smith School and two cases at Sanford Junior High School. Parents have been notified.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is spread through sneezing or coughing. Symptoms include sore throat, uncontrollable coughing and fever.

Mainers can expect to see petitions circulating in the coming weeks asking if they'd like to see an initiative for physician-assisted suicide on the fall ballot next year.

Valerie Lovelace from the Wiscasset-based Maine Death With Dignity is one of those spearheading the petition drive, to be launched next week. She volunteers for hospice.

"I've sat at the bedside of individuals who have died, and that have not gone well," says Lovelace.

Kateryna Kon / AP Photo

The Sanford school department is warning parents that there have been several cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, at the school.

District Superintendent David Theoharides says there have been four confirmed cases at Margaret Chase Smith primary school, and two at Sanford Junior High.

There is a vaccination for pertussis, and it's most common in school-aged kids. Theoharides says in most cases it's not severe for those kids. He says a bigger concern is when they bring it home to younger family members.

Maine Is Returning To A Familiar Approach To Lower Health Insurance Costs

Apr 12, 2018
Karen Roach / AP Photo

With health insurance premiums for individuals slated to rise nationwide by as much as 20 percent or more in 2019, Maine is looking to revive a mothballed mechanism to help hold those costs at bay.

Maine Senator Susan Collins talked today about bills she's co-sponsoring to address the nation's opioid crisis. At a hearing in Washington, Collins said that one measure deals with pain medications given to hospice patients after the patients have died.

"Hospice staff are not allowed to dispose of these unused medications, even after the patient has died,” she says. “So, this opens the door to diversion, to theft, to abuse."

Collins says the legislation she's cosponsoring would allow hospice staff to retrieve such leftover medications.

Maine law enforcement officials are warning of bad batches of heroin after nine overdoses across four counties in a single night.

The Bangor Daily News reports that police assume the heroin was laced with fentanyl, which is far more powerful that heroin.

The Hancock County Sheriff's Department posted a warning on its Facebook page after three overdoses in Washington County and one in Hancock County. Officials say all of those victims were revived with the overdose antidote Narcan.

A two-question screening tool that's now being used at primary care doctor's offices in southern Maine, is helping families experiencing food insecurity to find resources they need.

Maine Medical Partners, a division of Maine Health, is using the "Hunger Vital Sign," to find and help those families. Pediatrician Dr. Lucy Amory says since late January, all kids ages one to five get the two-question screener when they come in for their annual physicals.

The Maine Legislature moved closer Thursday to approving $6.6 million bill to fight a deadly opioid crisis that claimed the lives over 400 Mainers last year. Both the House and Senate have given initial approval to the bill that would direct treatment funding to those without insurance.

The city of Portland filed a lawsuit Thursday in Cumberland County Superior Court against 26 opioid manufacturers and distributors. Attorney Adam Lee says the lawsuit alleges that the companies orchestrated a campaign of fraud and misinformation about the addictive qualities of opioids.

Lee says the suit alleges that opioid manufacturers and distributors orchestrated a campaign of fraud, deceit, and misinformation to shape the public's perception of the addictive qualities of the drug.

Maine Public

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills says that she has a solution to the funding stalemate between Gov. LePage and lawmakers that is blocking Medicaid expansion. At the State House Tuesday, Mills announced that Maine will receive millions in additional funds from a settlement with tobacco companies that could pay for expanding health care coverage, which voters approved last year.

The parent company of Bangor’s Eastern Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Portland is changing its name.

In October, Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems will become Northern Light Health. EMHS Senior Vice President Matthew Weed says the name change acknowledges that the organization no longer just operates in the eastern part of the state.

Weed says what’s more important is that the new name reflects efforts over the past several years to bring different areas of expertise, technology and access together in a system.

The Maine Senate has voted unanimously to increase availability of the anti-overdose drug naloxone in pharmacies.

About two years ago, the Legislature passed a bill that temporarily allowed pharmacists to prescribe naloxone over-the-counter to those suffering from addiction. WMTW-TV reports the bill passed this week would remove the "sunset provision" from the previous bill and would make the legislation permanent.

Repbulican Gov. Paul LePage has 10 days to sign the bill.